Israel: Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir trade insults over 'lenient' Gaza Strip bombing

Israel: Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir trade insults over 'lenient' Gaza Strip bombing
Cracks are deepening in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition, with Ben-Gvir calling Netanyahu's reponse to Gaza rocketfire 'weak'
2 min read
03 May, 2023
Ben-Gvir has threatened to boycott the Knesset until he sees a government that is 'fully right-wing' [Getty]

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have engaged in a war of words, with Ben-Gvir taking a swing at the Israeli government’s "lenient" response to rocket fire from the beseiged Gaza Strip.

Rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Tuesday after the death in Israeli custody of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan, who had been on hunger strike for nearly three months.

Despite Israel's retaliation with artillery fire and airstrikes that killed a 58-year-old Palestinian in Gaza City, Ben-Gvir said that the Israeli government's response had been "weak".

Netanyahu hit back in a statement from his Likud party, saying: "The prime minister, defence minister, the [Israeli army] and security bodies are the ones overseeing the sensitive and complex security-related events with which Israel is dealing.”

"If this is not acceptable to Minister Ben-Gvir, he does not have to stay in the government."

Responding to Netanyahu's comments, Ben-Gvir said the Israeli premier is "welcome to fire us if you don't want a fully right-wing government" and threatened to not show up for votes "until the prime minister understands that the government's goal is to be fully right-wing."

Likud is in an electoral covenant with a group of extreme right-wing religious parties, and needs Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit (Jewish) party on side to be able to stay in power. 

Israel has now agreed a temporary truce with Palestinian resistance fighters along the border with Gaza. 

To Palestinians living in Gaza, the idea that Israel had practiced any kind of leniency when it conducted its airstrikes was surreal.

"The children were terrified. This makes no sense," Gaza resident Sufian Kaskeen told Reuters after Israel hit the city on Wednesday.